While Easter Sunday will be a quiet day for many people across the commonwealth of Kentucky, several owners and trainers will be on edge as numerous Kentucky Derby prospects are scheduled to complete their penultimate workouts for the 1 ¼-mile race on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.
Saturday began the exclusive 7:30-7:45 a.m. EDT training session for horses preparing for the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) and $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), but Mother Nature played a role with nearly two inches of rain that fell overnight in Louisville.
Several trainers opted to move their scheduled workouts to Sunday, including Bret Calhoun's Louisiana Derby winner By My Standards and Bill Mott's Wood Memorial victor Tacitus.
Nevertheless, several prospects were on the track for light training including Arkansas Derby (GI) runner-up Improbable for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
BY MY STANDARDS – Chester Thomas' Allied Racing Stable's Louisiana Derby (Grade II) winner By My Standards galloped about 1 ½ miles at 6:30 a.m. EDT Saturday for locally-based trainer Bret Calhoun.
“(Trainers) sort of turn into meteorologists when it comes to important works for horses,” Calhoun said. “I'm going to plan on working him (Sunday) depending on the track conditions.”
The colt, by Goldencents, is tentatively scheduled to breeze at 9 a.m. with regular jockey Gabriel Saez aboard.
CODE OF HONOR – Florida Derby third-place finisher Code of Honor breezed five furlongs in 1:01 Saturday at Keeneland and is tentatively scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Wednesday via van, according to Senior Director of the Stable Area Steve Hargrave.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey III, John Velazquez is confirmed to ride in the Kentucky Derby.
COUNTRY HOUSE/TACITUS – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott's duo of Arkansas Derby third-place finisher Country House and Wood Memorial winner Tacitus both trained over the sloppy Churchill Downs surface Saturday.
Country House had a light gallop around 6 a.m. with exercise rider Maryanne Scherer aboard while Tacitus galloped during the exclusive training period for Derby and Oaks horses at 7:30 a.m. with Juan Quintero up.
“Both horses are doing well,” assistant trainer Kenny McCarthy said. “We may try to breeze Tacitus (Sunday) depending on the track conditions.”
Both horses are stabled in Barn 19.
IMPROBABLE – Improbable, who races under the colors of WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and Starlight Racing came out onto the sealed Churchill Downs track Saturday, but the Arkansas Derby (GI) runner-up didn't put in a strenuous workout.
“When you have this kind of weather, and the track is sealed, you want to go out there and take a little jaunt, and not try to do too much,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to five-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, who is supervising the colt's activities at Churchill Downs. Baffert's other two possible Derby starters, Game Winner and Roadster, haven't arrived yet from California.
“He's basically a lightly-raced horse, so he's running him into shape. He raced at Los Alamitos in December, and went from there to the Rebel, so it'll take him a few races just to get racing fit.
“He's done everything we've asked of him, and he came out of Arkansas with two second-place finishes. But he could have won the first race easily if he'd had a better trip, and in the second one we were beaten by Omaha Beach, but that's a very nice horse. I see him improving with each start.”
LONG RANGE TODDY – Rebel (GII) winner Long Range Toddy had a light 1 ½-mile gallop Saturday at 7:30 a.m. for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
“All good except the weather,” said assistant trainer Scott Blasi, as he accompanied Long Range Toddy aboard the stable pony.
Long Range Toddy is stabled in Barn 38.
OMAHA BEACH – The likely favorite for the Kentucky Derby, Omaha Beach, avoided the inclement weather and had an easy walk day Saturday in Barn 28 at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, Omaha Beach is likely to train Sunday at 7:30 a.m.
Mandella is expected to be at Churchill Downs on Sunday.
PLUS QUE PARFAIT – UAE Derby (GII) winner Plus Que Parfait was the first horse on the track during the exclusive training window for Derby and Oaks horses at 7:30 a.m. for locally-based conditioner Brendan Walsh.
Plus Que Parfait, ridden by Walsh's assistant Tom Molloy, jogged in the chute area at Churchill Downs before completing about a one-mile gallop.
“He bounced out of the (UAE Derby) much better than expected,” Walsh said. “He's been doing really well since he's gotten to Churchill Downs. We are just so proud of his effort in the UAE Derby to jump up and win like that. I think it just showed all along that he didn't really care for the surface at Fair Grounds over the winter.”
Plus Que Parfait is tentatively scheduled to breeze Sunday at 5:30 a.m., according to Walsh. Ricardo Santana Jr. is signed on to ride in the Derby.
ALSO ELIGIBLES – Currently on the outside looking in at No. 22 on the Kentucky Derby preference list, Signalman breezed five furlongs in :59.60 in company with Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) contender Restless Rider (five furlongs in :59.80). Signalman, who has not missed the board at Churchill Downs (3-1-1-1), clipped through opening fractions :12.20, :23.80, :35.60 and :47.60 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 and completing a seven-furlong gallop out in 1:26.20, according to clocker John Nichols. Signalman is based in Barn 6. … Peter Redekop's Anothertwistafate, also on the Kentucky Derby bubble at No. 23 on the points leaderboard, shipped to Churchill Downs earlier this week from Keeneland. With six career starts, he's been first or second in all but one, including his runner-up finish to Owendale in the Lexington (GIII) at Keeneland on April 13. Prior to the Lexington, Anothertwistafate earned graded-stakes placing in the Sunland Derby (GIII), where he just lost by a neck to Cutting Humor in track-record time. … Silverton Hill's Derby hopeful Sueno, which translates from Spanish as “dream” is on the bubble, ranking No. 24 on the leaderboard. In four graded stakes starts this year, the Keith Desormeaux trainee has a pair of seconds and a pair of thirds, most recently finishing behind Owendale and Anothertwistafate in the Lexington. For that team's Derby dream to become a reality, four 3-year-olds ahead of him on the leaderboard will have to drop out of the picture in order for him to be among the 20 entering the starting gate on May 4. He's at stabled at Churchill Downs in Barn 24 and getting in his preparations for a possible Derby start.
SHAPING UP: THE KENTUCKY DERBY – Likely starters in the 145th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) to be run for 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles on Saturday, May 4: By My Standards (jockey Gabriel Saez), Code of Honor (John Velazquez), Country House (undecided), Cutting Humor (undecided), Game Winner (Joel Rosario), Gray Magician (undecided), Haikal (Rajiv Maragh), Improbable (Irad Ortiz Jr.), Long Range Toddy (Jon Court), Master Fencer (JPN) (Julien Leparoux), Maximum Security (Luis Saez), Omaha Beach (Mike Smith), Plus Que Parfait (Ricardo Santana Jr.), Roadster (Florent Geroux), Spinoff (Manny Franco), Tacitus (Jose Ortiz), Tax (Junior Alvarado), Vekoma (Javier Castellano), War of Will (Tyler Gaffalione), Win Win Win (Julien Pimentel).
Next up in order of preference: Bodexpress (undecided), Signalman (Brian Hernandez Jr.), Anothertwistafate (undecided) and Sueno (undecided).
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